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Actor Hicks is a natural-born thriller

Wellesbourne Airfield
Wellesbourne Airfield

IT requires exceptional virtuoso musicianship to perform Beethoven’s hugely demanding work for violin and piano known as the Kreutzer Sonata.

It also requires acting ability of corresponding virtuosic brilliance to perform an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s famous novella, The Kreutzer Sonata, on stage as a one-man play lasting nearly one and three quarter hours without an interval. And this is what Greg Hicks, a familiar face with the RSC in Stratford, did throughout last week at The Theatre in Chipping Norton.

The adaptation by Nancy Harris of Tolstoy’s 1889 novella has the local government official Pozdnyshev (Hicks) talking in a conversational manner to the audience about his attitude to women, his marriage and how he came to stab to death his wife in a crime of passion triggered by Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata.

The cause of his jealousy is the relationship between his wife, a competent pianist, and the violinist Troukhatchevsky. The two perform the Kreutzer Sonata and Pozdnyshev becomes convinced that their union in music has led them to a union of a rather different kind – between the bed sheets. (The musical contributions on stage were provided by pianist Hannah Watson and violinist Justin Wilman.)

It is a considerable feat for one person to successfully hold an audience’s rapt attention for the best part of two hours, but Mr Hicks pulled this off to superlative effect.

His great merit is in his naturalness. We know he was acting, but he appeared not to be. He was simply telling us a story about his life and his philosophy of life and the disastrous consequences of sexual jealousy. This was a triumphant performance right down to every roll of his eyes and every shrug of his shoulders.

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